Project Description

There was once a time where children played outside catching fireflies or building forts in the woods. Within the space of a generation, a gap has formed between children and nature. However, Camp Discovery’s mission is to inspire children’s lives through hands-on outdoor experiences.

Camp Discovery is a nonprofit organization spread out over 104 acres of forest, pastures, creeks and streams that has helped over 11,000 children since 1985. It provides recreation and experiential learning in nature to teach, heal and inspire.

Its programs are designed to support and enrich academic and interpersonal development through engaging, hands-on outdoor experiences and incorporate social and recreational objectives leading to cooperative learning, healthy choices and an appreciation for environmental stewardship.

“Each day brings a new reward,” Joanna Weitzel, executive director, said. “Many days are focused on preparing and delivering program activities to children and youth, but other tasks beckon too, including caring for the Camp’s resident animals, responding to administrative needs or tending to landscaping and maintenance issues.”

Thanks to partners like the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina, their programs are accessible to youth regardless of their ability to pay. Many of the children visiting Camp Discovery struggle with impulsiveness, behavioral issues, or stress brought on from circumstances beyond their control. Camp Discovery uses nature to help heal and nurture children from different backgrounds.

“Support through the Foundation provides children opportunities to step out of the chaotic environment which they know and into a natural, peaceful environment that presents a highly effective setting for learning; a place where they are challenged to think differently,” Weitzel said.

Knowledge and empowerment are top priorities for both Camp Discovery staff and participants.

“Camp Discovery is a beautiful, positive, and private setting that provides our students and group facilitators the opportunity to escape from their normal environment,” D. Allen, Intervention Specialist, said. “The energy and commitment of staff makes

[it] a top notch learning experience for all involved.”

Staff from Camp Discovery feel that nature is vital to a child’s overall development, and participants agree.

“Camp Discovery’s strength-based focus is invaluable and aligns with student’s most critical need: to understand and feel a sense of self-worth, value and significance.  What they do is powerful,” R. Higgins, School Counselor in Richland Two, said.

In the future, Weitzel hopes that Camp Discovery will still be leading the way in ensuring that children of all ages and abilities have meaningful experiences in nature that connect young hearts and minds to all living things.

“My wish for every child that visits Camp Discovery is for them to leave with a strong belief in the value that they bring to our world and a lasting connection to nature from which they draw strength for the rest of their lives,” Weitzel said